ATHENS, May 13 (AFP) - One half of the roof over the main Olympic stadium in Athens has ended its 71-metre slide towards its final position, a source at the worksite said Thursday.
The International Olympic Committee had been particularly concerned over delays to the stadium and in particular its 300-metre long, 9,000 tonne glass and metal roof, which which is regarded in Greece as a source of national pride.
The arch has successfully reached its place,'' Leonidas Kikiras, the Greek representative of the roof's Spanish star architect Santiago Calatrava, told AFP. The still incomplete eastern arch of the roof is scheduled to slide into place later in the month. Greece has in general struggled to complete the work required for the August 13-29 Games. The roof's western wing started sliding Monday andbeat a four-day deadline set by Cimolai, the project's Italian engineers. The two ends of the arch will now be fixed to the ground with giant bolts before being cemented, engineers said. With 93 days remaining to the Games, the successful installation is boosting organisers' morale, battered by a string of bomb alerts and a letter by an extremist group published Thursday, declaring foreign Olympics visitors and security officials as undesirables’’ during the Olympics.
It's a sign of the capacity of the Greeks... if they can do that, they can do all the rest,'' said Denis Oswald, chief Games' inspector for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Athens on Wednesday. Oswald gave Athens preparations a clean bill of health after the IOC's final, official inspection visit Wednesday, expressing confidence that all the venues would be completed in time for the Games. The roof is turning into a symbol for the Games’ absolute success,’’ said former Greek culture minister in charge of the Games Evangelos Venizelos.
The eastern arch will have to move 61 metres (200feet). Engineers expect the work at the eastern half to be easier.
``We’ll use the experience acquired so far. On top of that we will also have more space to move around,’’ Nikos Louridas, a senior engineer overseeing the project on behalf of the Greek government, told AFP.
The two separate parts of the roof prevented agronomists from conducting necessary landscaping around the venue ahead of the Olympics. More than 1,000 trees have to be planted in record time around the stadium until the Games’ opening ceremony.
Once completed, the Calatrava roof will have 500 permanent and 2,000 temporary spotlights. It is designed to withstand an earthquake measuring eight on the open-ended Richter scale and hurricane-strong winds with a speed of 120 kilometres (74.4 miles) per hour.
Construction of the roof cost 256 million euros (307million dollars), 30 million euros more than initially budgeted.